By Ashok Pandey
September 25, 2022, was the seventh anniversary of the United Global Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015. This anniversary focused on Goal 4: Quality education and lifelong learning, and the UN organised the Transforming Education Summit in New York from September 16-19, 2022.
Leonardo Garnier, the special advisor to the Transforming Education Summit, explained why going back to the old ways of teaching is not an option and how the UN can help bring fresh ideas to classrooms and raise educational standards for children.
Participants shared one phrase that dominated the discussion: “We have the education system of the 19th century, education practitioners for the 20th century, and learners of the 21st century.” There is a need to see education through the sustainable development lens to address the education crisis.
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) encourages changes in knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to enable a more sustainable and just society. SDGs are premised on five Ps: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. At the heart of SDGs is the acknowledgement that the planet and its inhabitants are one unit and the recognition that our future depends upon how these five Ps interplay.
Eight of the 17 SDGs revolve around quality education, ending poverty, empowerment of women and girls, security, and inclusion; another eight revolve around sanitation, energy, habitation, lifestyle, and climate, and the last one focuses on ‘working together’. The UN summit reiterated that treasures of learning encompass learning to learn, learning to do, learning to be and learning together. Tony Devine of the Global Peace Foundation expressed his excitement thus: “As we entered the UN, we were greeted by a large sign: ‘Only one in three ten-year-olds globally can read and understand a simple story’.”
ESD encourages teaching and learning to include poverty reduction, green practices, quality education, climate change, risk reduction and responsible consumption as core subjects. It also urges interactive, participative, experiential pedagogy and empowering learners to change their behaviour and actions to promote SDGs. ESD promotes 21st-century competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios, collaborative decision making and problem solving.
The National Education Policy 2020 focuses on SDGs. Though the context of each school varies, a school-based strategy to integrate ESD must follow a four-fold path to succeed.
All schools must design curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and practices aligned with SDGs. Each school must promote green behaviours, actions and community involvement. School management must act as an enabler and provide resources to install mega-green practices on campuses: solar power, eco-friendly transport, rain harvesting, recycling, waste management, reduced energy consumption, water management and community outreach.
Pedagogical leadership, vision development and community profile of educational leaders will determine a school’s success. Capacity building for principals and top school teams must be carried out in sustainability strategy, talent cultivation, goal-oriented leadership, and technology as a critical driver.
Empowering the youth
The world has recognised the potential of student agency and empowerment. Core skills and instruction, technology access, mastery learning, holistic support and readying them for the future of work are the guiding parameters of empowering the youth. The Universal Design of Learning (UDL) emphasises equity and excellence for each child.
Parental engagement (QUEST)
‘Parents as partners in learning’ is a concept we must leverage. Their talent, energy and network can be harnessed to help children grow. They will partner if they see value in the school’s approach to education. Giving space to parents to ask questions (Q), developing understanding (U), consistently engaging with them (E), structuring relationships (S), and teaming with parents (T) has a positive impact on the environment and student learning.
The UN summit has shown the way forward by dedicating September 16 as Mobilisation Day—a youth-led initiative on mobilising people, youth, teachers, civil society and others to support the transformation of education. September 17 is Solutions Day, devoted to searching for solutions around five themes: inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools, learning and skills for life, work for sustainable development, teachers and the teaching profession, digital learning and transformation, and investing in education. Let these be the urgency and motivation to change track and achieve educational goals.
The author is chairperson, Council for Global Citizenship Education.